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A spearfisherman with a carp.
A spearfisherman with a carp. / Contributed photo
Contributed photo

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There is a new sport called spearfishing that is quickly growing in popularity around the world. Believe it or not, in the midwest, Wisconsin is a haven for 'Spearos' to meet up and catch some dinner.

What is spearfishing?

In Wisconsin you can legally hunt varieties of fish, while in many other of the surrounding states you are only allowed to catch carp.

Currently, spearfishermen are allowed to catch carp, sucker fish, bullheads, burbot, bluegills, sunfish, crappie, dogfish, sheepshead, perch, white bass, yellow bass, striped bass and gar. As a result, the state of Wisconsin has become a spearfishing attraction to those who cannot hunt freely in their home state.

How to get started

First of all, it should go without saying that when you are going to start a new sport that involves firing sharp objects, you should receive some kind of instruction. A great place to start is the Wisconsin Speargun Hunters, they are a group of that meets regularly to go spearfishing.

As far as legally taking part in underwater hunting, you will need a regular fishing license. Many Spearo’s will bring a float with a built-in waterproof pocket. With this float, if there are any issues with local authorities, you can quickly pull out the proper paperwork and identification.

Currently, most Spearfishermen prefer not to use scuba tanks. For the most part the sport combines fishing with freediving. Meaning, you will only need a mask, snorkel, fins and a wetsuit. If you are interested in getting a type of diving certification, it is always a good idea to take freediving classes. Learning how to safely dive deep and hold your breath for an extended period of time is important.

More on fishing: Fishing news from around the state | Your fishing photos | Build a map | Read fishing reports

What type of gear do you need?

Although you can use a pole spear, most prefer to use a speargun that is around 75cm-90cm (around 2.5- to 3-feet) in length.

Typically, the longer guns you see in most advertisements may not be a good fit for the lakes that border Wisconsin. Between May and early July you have a water visibility of around 40 feet and in Lake Michigan you can have as much as 100 feet of visibility. The rest of the year the you may have as little as 5 feet of visibility.

If you use a speargun that is 6 feet long and you only have 5 feet of visibility, it would make firing the speargun very awkward and its length would extend beyond your field of vision. Although longer versions tend to be much more powerful, they often are not practical for the surrounding lakes in Wisconsin.

When is the best time to go spearfishing?

As we mentioned earlier in this article, you will find the best water visibility from May to July. However this does not stop many Spearos from hunting in the dead of winter.

Some will go as far as breaking the ice, setting lines (ropes to follow back while you are under the ice so you do not get lost) and catch some fish! If you do decide to take part in ice spearfishing, you should keep in mind that you will need a hooded wetsuit that is at least 5mm thick.

Note:According to Scott Otey of the Wisconsin Speargun Hunters Facebook page, spearfishing is only legal through a hole smaller than 12 inches in diameter.

Spearfishing has occurred in the winter in Wisconsin in areas where there is open water, surrounded by ice. Otey said at least one open water location that was used in the past is no longer viable as a nearby power plant no longer discharges warm water into the lake.

However, if you are just starting out, a 3mm Spearfishing wetsuit should be enough to get started. You will not be able to swim around in the dead of winter, but the thickness is suitable for most cold weather.

Spearfishing is the type of sport that truly takes a lifetime to master, but once you start to gain skill in it, you will find it very rewarding. There are not that many sports in which you can challenge yourself and bring home dinner.

We would also like to give a special thanks to Scott Otey from deeperblue.com for supplying us with the photos for this article.

Scott Moses is an urban waterman who escapes the city as often as possible to jump in the water and explore the underwater world. His love of water sports have brought him as far as Asia to go Scuba diving, surfing all over Central America, and of course spearfishing every chance he can get. He is the owner of Justspearfishing.com and you are more than welcome to contact him on his website if you have any questions.

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